Return of the
2021 will be a record year for beaver reintroductions, with The Wildlife Trusts bringing them back to five counties this year
are releasing a record number of beavers in 2021 – twenty years after bringing the first ever beavers back to Britain.
The first of the year's releases have already taken place in Dorset – and around 20 beavers in total will be released throughout the year, including to a project in Wales.
Plans developed by Wildlife Trusts of Dorset, Derbyshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Nottinghamshire and Montgomeryshire will see new beaver families moving into these counties for the first time. The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of beaver reintroduction and projects in Britain ever since Kent Wildlife Trust released the first pair into a fenced area of fenland in 2001, followed by the Scottish Beaver Trial in 2009.
These industrious herbivores are native to mainland Britain but were hunted to extinction in the 16th century by people who wanted their fur, meat and scent glands. The loss of beavers led to the loss of the mosaic of lakes, meres, mires, tarns and boggy places that they were instrumental in creating. Their ability to restore and maintain important wetland habitats is why reintroducing this biodiversity boosting species is so important.
“Beavers are a fantastic keystone species, that have a hugely important role to play in restoring nature to Britain,” says Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts.
“It's brilliant to see Wildlife Trusts across the UK ensuring a better future for wetlands and for a wealth of other wildlife by bringing back beavers whose engineering capabilities inject new life into wild places.”
The activities of beavers help to create a fantastic range of wetland habitats that provide homes for other wildlife, and greatly enhance conditions for nature to thrive. Otters, water voles and kingfishers are just a few of the species that could benefit.
The reintroduction of beavers also offers clear benefits for people. The channels, dams and wetlands that beavers engineer hold back water and release it more slowly after heavy rain, helping to reduce the risk of flooding. Their dams filter water, cleaning it and reducing pollution – and the presence of beavers in the countryside can also boost tourism.
Devon Wildlife Trust and its partners in the River Otter Beaver Trial have developed extensive experience supporting people to live alongside beavers, leading a locally agreed management strategy which has proved crucial in enabling local communities, volunteers and landowners to work together to maximise the benefits beavers bring, while successfully managing localised problems which can occur.
This year, individual Wildlife Trusts are raising funds to bring the beavers back, making their new homes ready and carrying out the checks they need. Future releases are expected to trap, vet-check and move beavers from a substantial population in Scotland.
On Monday 8th February two beavers were released at an enclosed site in Dorset by Dorset Wildlife Trust, following feasibility studies and careful monitoring to look at the difference they could make to an enclosed wetland. Following several years of preparation, including installing a specialist fence to enclose the site, and recording baseline data with experts from University of Exeter and Wessex Water, the pair of Eurasian beavers – an adult male and female – are now settling in.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust will release two beaver families and their kits into a 47-hectare enclosed area of Willington Wetlands reserve in the Trent valley. Beavers here will help to increase the water storage capacity of the nature reserve. The site is being made ready for beavers to be rehomed from a site in Scotland later this year.
On the Isle of Wight, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust plans to release beavers for the first time. The results from the Trust's feasibility research on their reserves in the Eastern Yar were very positive and show the habitat would be well suited to beavers – it is hoped that they can be released into an open area, rather than fenced enclosures.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust plans to reintroduce at least four beavers this summer into a huge enclosure in the spectacular Idle Valley Nature Reserve in North Nottinghamshire. This will be part of a project to harness the power of natural processes to transform what is already one of the best inland nature-watching places in the region.
Meanwhile The Welsh Beaver Project – led by North Wales Wildlife Trust on behalf of the five Wildlife Trusts in Wales – has been assisting Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust with their plans to release a pair beavers into an enclosure at their Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve, near Machynlleth. It will be the first officially licenced release of beavers in Wales. The beavers will play a vital role in managing invasive willow and scrub which threatens wetland areas of this lowland bog.
The reintroductions taking place this year follow beaver releases by the Wildlife Trusts during 2020 in Cheshire and the Lake District.
This film shows how two beavers released by Cumbria Wildlife Trust to an enclosure at the Lowther Estate have already brought benefits to the site, slowing the flow of water and improving the habitat for other wildlife:
want to see clear support for beaver reintroductions into catchments across the country, and are calling on the government to clarify the legal status of beavers in England, make funding available for landowners and local beaver management groups to help reintegrate beavers into the countryside, and agree a strategic approach to enable the return of beavers to help tackle the climate crisis and improve wetlands for wildlife.
Little Green Space February 2021
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